Heaven & Earth (1993) Movie Script

A long time ago...
... a young woman went off into the world...
... like her brothers and sisters.
She fought in wars...
... had children...
... suffered...
... and loved greatly.
I was the sixth-born child...
... Phung Thi Le Ly.
I lived in the most beautiful village
on Earth.
My earliest memories were working
alongside Mother in the fields.
Always working, my mother.
Each grain of rice, a symbol of life,
never wasted.
While we worked,
she'd teach me all I had to know about life.
Mama, where did I really come from?
Where do babies come from?
From my belly button.
Don't worry. God makes babies
and puts them in your belly.
You have plenty of warning.
The fragile rice had to be planted
and transplanted several times.
Our rice paddies were always
near the cemeteries...
... because we believed the spirits
passed through the soil into the rice...
... so the new generation,
in eating the rice...
... was sharing in the spirit
of their ancestors.
One day, in the summer of 1953...
... the French came.
They destroyed our village.
And the following year, we went hungry.
I will never forger my father's eyes...
... as he watched our house burn
to the ground.
But, as it had happened to our village
for so many centuries...
... we rebuilt our lives.
Mama, where do babies really come from?
Then, in 1963...
... the peasant countryside changed forever.
When the Viet Cong first arrived
that rainy season...
... some of them were remnants
from the war against the French.
Many of them were displaced immigrants
from the North.
All of them were angry.
My parents taught me Vietnam is...
...a free nation.
That is what this war is about.
The Chinese, the Japanese, the French,
have each tried to rule us.
And we have won!
The North and the South are inseparable,
like sisters.
But in 1954...
...the French and American allies
separated us and kidnapped the South.
Can we stand by
and watch the kidnappers...
...taking turns raping
and corrupting our sister!
That's what this war's about.
Why should outsiders come in...
...divide the land and tell people
to go north and then go south?
If Vietnam were truly
for the Vietnamese people...
...we would be able to choose
the kind of government we want.
A nation can't have two governments any
more than a family can have two fathers.
- They have bombs, ten men for one of us!
- He's right.
What do we have?
We have rags! We have rifles!
And sticks! We have sticks!
We have no rank, no promotion.
We take no money.
We are your servants.
We respect your homes and shrines.
We are your family.
Do you want to dance?
It was my brother Sau I loved the most.
He was always there to protect me
and make me laugh.
Sweet rice, black beans.
You be very careful. Write, Sau.
I will return.
Le Ly, I will return.
Be a big girl.
Always take care of Mama and Papa.
Protect yourself from ghosts.
Take care.
As they went north to Hanoi
with the Viet Cong...
... I felt it was the last time
I'd see my older brother, Bon...
... and my younger brother, Sau,
for a long, long time.
Maybe forever.
But it was Sau who was ripped
from my heart.
You understand that a country is more
than a lot of dirt, rivers and forests?
You know your brother, Sau,
may not come back?
I told you many times...
...the Chinese ruled our land.
Many died.
Le Loi, Jia Long and the Trung sisters.
And your ancestor Phung Thi Chinh fought
to throw out the Chinese.
Your grandfather fought
and died against the Japanese...
...just before you were born.
We suffered much.
When the Japanese came...
...your mother and I were taken
to Danang...
...to build a runway for the airplanes.
We worked like slaves.
Our reward was a bowl of rice...
...and another day of life.
Freedom is never a gift, Bay Ly.
It must be won and won again.
You know that?
I do.
See this land?
Vietnam is going to be yours now.
If the enemy returns...
...you must be both a daughter
and a son now.
From my father, I learned to love God
and the people I could not see...
... my ancestors.
But I would learn in time...
... my father's words would be twisted
by events.
Government soldiers came to our village
with the support of American advisors.
Your village will be safe.
They built barricades
against the Viet Cong.
It's part of the new Binh Ky hamlet.
Many of you will be asked
to take militia training...
...so you will be prepared...
...to resist the Communist rebels!
You will be rewarded...
...with food and money.
Your older children will be sent to camp...
...for military training.
But younger children can go to school.
Your village will be happy and peaceful.
Do you have any questions?
Go to your leader.
The soldiers ate our food,
slept with our women...
... and searched us just as the soldiers
of the warlords had centuries before.
But the government leader, whose name
was Ngo Dinh Diem, America's ally...
... was a Catholic, like the French...
... and that alone made him suspicious
to the Buddhists in our area.
The Northern leader, Ho Chi Minh...
... had been a great patriot
against the Japanese and the French.
We heard stories of his compassion
and his love for Vietnam.
What are they? Americans?
They say they all have blind blue eyes
behind their glasses.
If you take their shoes off,
they have soft feet and cry in pain.
Take away their glasses,
their boots, they can't fight.
Not very good soldiers.
Not very good fence.
Your president, Ngo Dinh Diem,
wants to know...
...what will you do if you see a Viet Cong...
...or hear about someone helping them.
Turn him in to the soldiers.
And get a big reward for every Viet Cong
you help capture.
During the day,
we were a government village.
But each night, when the soldiers returned
to their base and we played...
... there was never any shortage
of Viet Cong fighters.
One night, the Viet Cong came
for my teacher.
Have you been teaching these children
to betray their country? Traitor!
The first thing you should learn
on this night...
...Ky La was saved from the oppressors.
We're the liberators!
The night belonged to the Viet Cong.
Even though I was scared...
... there was no real choice.
They fought for our freedom
against the Southern government.
No matter who's asking the questions,
either side...
...play stupid, stupid, stupid child.
Any news from Sau or Bon?
They're training in the North.
- Any chance for a visit?
- There's no time for sons and mothers.
I told them we needed her on the farm.
For all the help she is here...
...maybe we should send her with Sau.
That'll teach her the value of work.
Don't say that!
Le Ly must do her work like everyone else.
She thinks she's too good for work.
Too busy flirting with no-good schoolboys.
- No, it's the big boys that bother me.
- Don't talk like that.
- Be quiet!
- Don't hit her!
Do you hear me?
Do you want to send all my children
to Hanoi or Saigon?
If I can't have my family around me,
what's the point of living?
You always think of only yourself!
The French, the Japanese,
now the Americans are all over us!
It's good they go North.
War is coming, you stupid, selfish man!
Stop it!
Forgive him, Mama.
Don't cry.
I've made your papa lose face.
If you ever do that to a husband...
...I'll have both your cheeks glowing,
one from him and one from me.
You hear me?
Who's first?
You talk now or it's bye-bye, Charlie!
You dig, asshole?
All right, it's your ass!
Kiss it good-bye.
You're next.
You talk?
You going to talk?
At my mother's request, a local wizard
examined the umbilical cords...
... of my two soldier brothers...
... who hadn't written in over a year.
The older one...
...is strong and healthy.
The younger one...
...is in a place too gray for me to see.
No, that's not true.
I know Sau is alive.
I feel it in my womb.
Did you hear...
...funny noises last night?
Maybe voices...
...last night in the rain?
I did.
Here is your trouble, then.
Your shrine...
...is too small.
And we have a lost soul...
...who needs to come in.
That's all.
Just build a shrine outside...
...and everything will be fine.
The Viet Cong ingrained
in us a sense of "xa":
Duty to land...
... duty to country.
The ant became our moral model.
We formed cells, associations...
... where no one person
accumulated power over others.
Only in battle or by your own hands
will you be immortalized.
You never moved up in the ant society,
you only moved further in.
If the Viet Cong won the peasants over...
... it was because they lived their lives
with us.
But every time we ambushed
the government soldiers...
... twice as many came back.
Get your sorry asses down there!
One day...
... they came for me.
Papa! Help me!
Tell me quickly.
Why were you on the road?
Cutting grass for the water buffalo.
I didn't tell my parents.
Why were you on the road?
I didn't mean any harm!
You are can bo cai...
...VC cadre girl.
You were warning your friends.
Where's the VC base?
I don't know.
How many battles have you been in?
What's your rank?
I'm just a girl.
I have not done it.
Do you know what this is?
Think what this can do to your body.
How would your baby like you
with no nipples?
Or maybe I could cut some skin
off your ass to make some sandals.
Think about it...
...Miss Viet Cong hero.
And when you're called again...
...be prepared to tell me
everything you know.
Don't move.
Don't move.
I haven't done anything!
I don't know anything!
My mother used my dowry to bribe
a military official to have me released.
And now...
... the villagers were suspicious
of my family's ties to the government.
... the Viet Cong came for me.
- She did nothing!
- Stay back!
No respect!
You've no respect!
- I'm coming with her!
- No, the prisoner comes alone!
Stay back!
Our men were betrayed.
The informer's here!
How else could the enemy know so much?
This village is filled with traitors!
Government sympathizers
that would sell us out for a relative...
...for money, for privilege!
So I ask you:
What should we do with these people?
We must give these people a lesson
they will never forget.
See it?
- What is it?
- A grave.
Your grave...
...stupid girl.
What deal did you make
to get out of prison?
Did you promise them some of our ears
for their belts?
No, my mother bribed an official.
Why won't you believe me?
Little rich girl!
You want to live?
My life is in your hands.
What does that mean?
I mean I won't talk to the enemy.
I've been shamed enough in my village.
If you want, I'll go far away.
I'll never come back.
You talk about this, I'll kill you for real.
No, don't!
No, get off!
Shut up!
I was never to understand
why I was raped...
... and not killed.
Or if I had ever really been sentenced
by the Viet Cong.
It may have just been a warning
to my father.
But it ended forever...
... my relationship to my village.
My sister Hai found us a job in the city.
Papa stayed on the land
to guard the spirits of our ancestors.
In Saigon...
... much to our confusion...
... the monks were being arrested.
I've never seen so many cars,
so many people.
The other one.
Madam, they're ready.
This way.
Country fresh. Good workers.
So, which village?
Ky La.
Near Danang?
Ly is wonderful with children.
Perfect babysitter.
How old is she?
Is she strong?
Yes, she's very strong. She started
to work in the fields when she was four.
They'll do.
Let's go.
You'll be punished for this, you stupid girl!
Making the Master open the door!
Don't be too hard on her.
It's been a long day.
Run off to bed. I'm fine. Go on.
I couldn't sleep.
I couldn't either, Master.
I am not your first.
Yes, you are.
I was raped...
...by the village boys in Ky La.
My poor thing.
Have you bled?
Stupid girl.
You weren't satisfied with a perfect life
in a perfect house?
You had to seduce the husband!
Made him stray from his wife.
Look what it brought you.
That's not how it happened!
Anh cares for me. He loves me.
Do you think a stupid girl like you
means anything to him?
Now you're going to have his bastard.
You'll have to get rid of it.
We'll go see the herbalist tomorrow.
What are you doing?
Oh, I'm sorry, Madam.
I'm expecting a child.
Yes, I know.
We learned it from the herbalist.
Who is the father?
Don't look so surprised.
A boy.
Someone I met in the park.
You don't know him.
Why are you burning incense?
...I don't want the baby.
I was praying to be forgiven.
In front of my husband's ancestors?
I don't know what else to do.
The boy's Catholic, like you.
I'm a Buddhist.
I see.
Le Ly, I have another explanation.
I believe the father of your baby
is my husband.
Oh, no! Anh... I mean the...
You know I'm not well.
But I have given my husband sons.
Beautiful boys.
As fine as any woman could've given him.
Don't think...
...you won't pay for what you've done.
You and your daughter
must leave the house at once.
But why?
Nobody knows but you.
Let people think the father is some soldier.
I know, and that's enough.
Men are like dogs pissing on posts.
They go once, they go twice.
But Bay Ly's no threat to you.
She has nothing for a proper man.
She's just a country girl.
An ignorant, stupid, foolish child.
A maid that will never be a bride.
She's nothing! Worthless!
Absolutely not.
I won't have her in my house.
Not as a nanny.
Not as a housekeeper.
Then as number two wife!
You're crazy.
As concubine to the Master.
As your slave to kick around.
To warm your husband's bed
when you have better things to do.
Why waste your health on a man's rutting
when you can leave it to a stupid girl?
You're always number one wife.
The law is on your side.
- Please, Mama!
- Stupid, stop!
They must go now. Today, before supper.
You tried to get rid of it?
Yes, of course.
But your seed, Master, is too strong.
Now it has hold of Bay Ly, too.
Please, help us get by the best we can.
At least until the child is born.
I won't throw you into the street.
But I cannot ask my wife
to let you live with us.
I'll put you in an apartment.
Not in Saigon.
How far away do you want them?
How far can you drive in a day?
All right.
I will send them back to Danang.
But we have nothing!
With enough money until the baby's born.
I'll send you money monthly.
To a bank or a relative.
I don't want you to know their address.
That's an absolute condition.
You will have enough to live on.
My steward will handle everything.
One day she'll come back!
Don't forget her!
She makes an excellent second wife.
Promise you won't forget her.
But the money never came.
Madame Lien saw to that.
My mother sold snails
for a while in Danang...
... but soon gave up and returned to Ky La.
My father, ashamed that I was unmarried
and pregnant, refused to see me.
- You want Mary Jane?
- Go away.
Hey, GI, number one cigarette?
How about some boom-boom?
No, me no hooker!
- Give you $10.
- No. Cigarettes?
- $15.
- No. Cigarettes?
What you hiding there?
Those baby bellies turn me on.
- Come on, give you $50. Come on.
- No! MP! MP!
No, you fuck off!
What's in the box?
Johnny Walker, cigarettes.
- What's this?
- Marijuana, huh?
This is all I have.
That's okay.
Where's Kim?
In work.
Kim work.
I'll wait for her, little sister.
No, baby. Baby.
You go, 'bye.
You go, 'bye.
I look for Kim.
Me daughter.
Kim here?
She not here.
Please. Me daughter, daughter.
I come long way.
- Go away.
- Please, please.
Me Papa.
- Papa.
- Get him out.
- No see long time.
- Get him out.
Please, please, please!
Go now, you stupid gook asshole!
- What are you doing here?
- Papa's at the house. Paul's back.
Paul's back? So soon?
Paul, good to see you, honey!
This isn't a good time.
Oh, baby!
I'm six weeks in the fucking bush.
I need some pussy bad! Now!
Father came a long way to see me.
Not good time.
He's got time, I don't. Get him out!
Come back.
I need some pussy, now, baby. Now!
He pays my bills. He's my man.
- Will you come on?
- Give me a little time, Papa.
Come back in two hours.
Let's do it.
See you.
I came to see your sister.
She's at work.
Selling near the base.
- Is she doing well? Getting by?
- She's lazy.
- But I help her all I can.
- And the baby?
I don't know why she had to seduce
her master's husband.
When she got caught,
did she keep quiet? No!
Yes. She has brought shame on us.
An unwed mother.
But she's not the only one
who has brought shame to us.
I do the best I can, Papa.
I'll be late for work.
When you see her...
...tell her I came to see her.
I miss her very much.
She shouldn't worry about being punished
for her mistake.
Life finds a way to balance itself.
Will you tell her that?
Of course, Papa.
And me?
You too, my little one.
Your boyfriend treated Papa so bad.
You would be ashamed.
You were there.
This is not the way Papa taught us to be.
Do you think I like what I'm doing?
Someone has to make a living around here.
You don't help!
I don't know why I let you stay here!
My boyfriends all complain about you!
Pregnant women are bad luck!
How disrespectful you are! If Papa...
Papa what?
An invader!
You sleep with the enemy!
You betray your family!
That's enough!
That's enough out of you!
And I'll marry one, too! You'll see!
And I'll get out of this goddamn country!
And as for you, young lady...
...no more charity for you!
Go on! Get out!
Get out!
Do you think that
you're the only one Papa loves?
You spoiled...
To survive, I picked through
the American base camp garbage.
And it was there that I first saw...
... the remains of poor prostitutes
who'd been murdered by men.
Thank heaven it's a boy.
Put him up to feed quickly.
Too much blood.
How will you care for him?
Better give him away or kill him.
And your shame will be washed away.
You're a very lucky girl among
the indig personnel referred to this office.
I will have no problem placing you.
Provided, of course, you play ball.
No big deal.
We'll do it any way you want.
Now, you do your best...
...and I'll do mine.
Open door!
Don't make such a big deal about it.
Just a little suck.
You! Call MP now!
This man try to rape me!
Go! Go!
This is supposed to be a joke, right?
It's a joke.
Months went by.
There were more prostitutes, pimps,
black marketeers. Everything had a price.
My family was suffering.
My papa had gotten old and sick
and could no longer work the land.
Hey, GI, you buy? You buy?
- No, not today.
- GI, you buy? Smokes? You buy?
GI, you buy?
Hi, Big Mike.
You look beaucoup sau.
No good day.
I got something might change your mood.
See those grunts?
They're leaving for the world today.
So what? They want souvenirs?
I got Chinese jade, Big Mike. Mary Jane.
Titi money.
No, they want a real souvenir.
They want boom-boom you.
Beaucoup boom-boom over there.
Plenty of crabs over there, too.
These pencil dicks are clean. They've been
in the bush since they got here.
One of them's going home to his wife.
Want them to go boom-boom
some scuzbag and bring home the clap?
They're willing to pay $20 each head.
Le Ly good girl. Fuck off.
Okay, five flags. Just for one guy.
$100 for the other.
$200, real money.
Too much.
You joking.
These guys got the bread
from being in the bush.
I told them clean poon is expensive.
Look, Le...
They beat the odds.
They want to leave something behind.
A memory. Something.
Le Ly not that kind of girl.
No deal.
Jesus Christ, you drive a hard bargain.
This is green.
That's it. That's all they gave me.
You give me $50 commission,
you pocket $350.
Support your family for a year, easy.
What's so hard about it?
Just lie there and let them do the work.
What they'll do you've already done.
They don't got all day. Take the money...
...and give them a story to bring home.
You're no cherry.
Just do it for fucking world peace.
Come on!
Send the poor bastards home with a smile.
My father was dying.
I returned for the first time to my village.
What are you doing here?
I heard there's trouble.
Where's Papa?
The Americans came one day
to look at our family bunker.
They think Viet Cong inside,
make Papa go inside first.
No VC!
But he told them no one was inside.
They still throw grenade.
But it did not explode.
Two Americans went in.
No more.
They were very angry at Papa.
They beat him.
Put paper on his back:
Took him to prison.
Bad, bad beating.
Come, Mama.
You're drinking now.
Stupid wizard came by the other day.
He said to me:
"I have nothing to tell you."
Just like that. I have no future.
He didn't mean it.
If I stay in the village, I die.
You know wizards,
they hate to give people bad news.
You're just imagining things.
There's nothing to worry about.
Who's worried?
What's wrong with living forever
with your ancestors?
I'm worried about you,
but your mother is not the same.
What happened to her?
The Viet Cong...
...came after Americans,
killed so many of them in a fight.
They were angry.
Traitor! Traitor!
Your Uncle Luc told him to stop.
He yelled:
"How can a woman who sends two sons
to die for the revolution...
"...betray her country?
"How can you accuse her of treason?"
Tell her to keep her mouth shut.
I never should have left.
I should have stayed to fight them all:
the Viet Cong...
... the government.
What am I now, Papa?
Not a warrior woman. Not a Phung.
Just a tramp, begging in the streets.
So ashamed.
Don't be ashamed.
You did the best you could.
Listen to me.
You were born to be a wonderful wife...
...and a mother.
Not a killer.
Don't ask what's right or wrong.
These questions are very dangerous.
Right is only the goodness
you carry in your heart.
Love for your ancestors, for your family.
Wrong is all that comes
between you and that love.
Go back to your son.
Make him the best son you can.
That is the war you must fight.
That is the victory you must win.
Before they see you and talk.
My little peach blossom...
...what will you do without me?
My father died soon after.
He drank acid and died
on the ground he loved.
My father taught me life is simple
and compassion follows.
He taught me by forgiving me for being
unwed and taking my child to his heart.
I bought my father the best funeral
he could have. We mourned him 100 days.
A year passed. I worked at the Korean
commissary serving drinks for tips.
The war got worse, and the Americans
became part of our landscape...
... part of us.
I want you to meet Steve. He's a sergeant.
Look, he wants
to meet a nice Vietnamese girl.
Give me the rest of the money.
Wait a minute!
Right there.
Yes, I know her.
There she is. She's come back.
Money, money.
Sorry, my friend no take no for answer.
She's scared you take back money.
You chase her.
Not my fault. Sorry.
You want something else?
I told you, I no want to be your girlfriend.
You want girl, you go see hooker.
Don't bother me.
I'm too old for hookers.
I just wanted to meet you.
I don't care about the money.
Your friend introduced us.
That's all I wanted.
Since I've gone to all this trouble...
...you think it'd be all right
if I just came in...
...talked to you for a few moments?
Just talk.
Please? Just a moment.
Okay. One minute.
I leave door open.
You bad guy, one funny move...
...I call MP.
They right there.
I good girl.
Okay. I go to work.
Thank you for coming.
I hope you happy staying in Danang.
- I'll wait for you.
- No.
I go long time. I work in Korean casino.
Serve booze.
That's okay. I have no place to go.
I gave most of my money to your friend
and I can't afford a taxi out of here.
I'm tired from our little race.
Okay. You can stay.
But not too long.
When you go...
...lock door, please.
- Maybe we can have dinner later.
- No.
I have dinner. Not possible.
No problem.
Nice meeting you.
Lock door when you go.
I hope you don't mind
if I stretched out for a while.
You're still here?
You said I could rest.
And I wanted to take you to dinner
to thank you...
...for your hospitality.
You don't understand. I no want go dinner.
Then we'll just go...
...for a walk or a drink.
It doesn't matter to me.
I want you didi.
You nice man...
...but I no want boyfriend.
You have one?
No, no boyfriend.
Me had boyfriend.
But me no want new boyfriend.
I'm sorry.
It sounds like he hurt you.
You want money for taxi?
- I'm perfectly content right here.
- I know.
I know you want to stay here,
but this my house.
You want woman, I call siclo.
I'm not interested in prostitutes.
I'm interested in you.
Is this your little brother?
Is this handsome boy your relative?
My son.
Of course he is.
He looks just like you.
Lot of spirit around the eyes.
That your name?
I sorry I not very nice to you.
You want some tea?
The fat girl is my sister.
And this is Mom's eight dogs.
She has the eight ugliest dogs
in the United States.
I think I better leave you alone.
Too much rain.
No taxi.
You stay until no more rain.
You sure?
Oh, God, I'm sorry.
- I'm sorry.
- It's okay.
I'm sorry. I'm sorry.
Anyone home?
What's this?
Just few things for you and your family.
We're going to have
Christmas all over again.
No. Steve, please.
You do not this.
- You cannot!
- Sure, I can.
I'm not very good with words.
Even if I could speak your language,
I don't think I could tell you how I feel.
I want peace and happiness.
I just want to be with you,
and help you and your little boy.
And your mom.
Anything wrong with that?
I no want be your girlfriend, Steve.
I no want boyfriend.
Me and men...
...we have bad karma.
You understand?
Bad karma.
How much bad could have happened
to a little girl like you?
You no ask. Goodbye.
You nice man. You find better girl.
Now wait a minute. Hold on.
I know all about karma.
My karma has taken me
all over this world all my life...
...living out of a duffle bag.
That's why I'm here.
It's time to settle down,
quit pretending I'll live forever.
I'm going home...
...to San Diego.
I got a house...
...and family there.
I want you to be there with me.
You'll be safe. You'll be free.
Your little boy will have his freedom...
...and an education.
My first wife taught me a real lesson
in my life. I'm serious.
I need a good Oriental woman.
Like you.
If you'll have me...
...I want you to be my wife.
Three years passed.
No, that's Tommy. And we're going
to change "Hung" to "Jimmy."
We moved to the Central Highlands
with Steve's new job.
Steve loved our new son Tommy
as if his life had started again.
When you come to California...
...to visit my mama,
we'll take you to Disneyland...
...in those pajamas.
Mama missed Papa too much...
... and seemed to be living
between this world and the next.
Your papa wanted you to stay on the land.
I can't. It's the past.
Who will care for the land?
I'm old.
Maybe Bon will come back.
I know he will.
America, Mama.
In America I can save the children.
The South is dying. Steve says...
...it'll fall faster than anyone thinks.
His mother and sister are near San Diego
and he'll leave the Army for a good job.
He loves me.
I love him.
You love him?
He's good, Mama.
He loves the children.
Americans are thu vo thuy vo chung.
They have no beginning and no end.
They don't care about their ancestors.
So they think they are free
to do any bad thing they want.
You will not be happy with this man.
Your father's spirit will not rest...
...till his most-loved child sleeps
in his house.
- Where are we going?
- Just don't separate!
- What happened?
- They overran the base!
NVA! Get over here!
Don't separate!
Come on!
- Come on! Get everybody!
- Wait! Jimmy!
It's all right!
- Wait! Our things!
- There's no time! Get up there!
Take that, okay? Goodbye.
We've got to go!
Get the fuck out of here!
- This is the end of the line.
- But Saigon!
- You're getting out of here.
- You say you take us Saigon!
No, come on! Go!
You son-of-a-bitch! Fuck you!
Get out of here!
My family was now blown
to the four winds.
But on the road out of Qui Nhon
I realized I was not alone.
My whole country was collapsing.
Be calm.
Butler! Butler!
Steven J?
I'm sorry. He's listed as missing in action.
You'll have to come back tomorrow.
Ticket, American plane, $2,000.
You come with me,
American man give beaucoup greenback.
For dollars. I got 10,000 piastres.
Look! It's Daddy!
It was everything I dreamed of.
Big skies, and giant people
crushed me in their arms.
And best of all was my husband,
Steve Butler.
Marine Sergeant Butler.
Here it is. The dream begins.
In his big craggy face was everything...
... I loved about America.
Played football with the guy
that lived in that house.
My first girlfriend's house.
She was a real dog.
You make me happy.
You make me very happy.
He's here! They're early!
She's so cute.
Like a little China doll.
I just want to hug you to pieces!
And the kids!
I'll just eat you up!
Hi, honey!
Home port. Lock and load! There's Ma.
- My baby!
- How are you?
You can sure tell which is Steve's.
That's Le Ly.
I'm so happy to meet you, honey.
The boys.
Come on in.
Look at this!
Not bad, huh? It's ranch-style.
We'll be here for a little while.
But soon we'll get our own place.
When you'd get back?
Last night, we got a C-130 out of...
- How was the flight?
- Long, you know.
Was it terrible there?
We don't want to talk about that now.
We'll talk about that later.
I've got steak and baked potatoes
all planned, sweetie...
...just like you like it.
And chocolate ice cream.
Do you eat that too?
Please, I prepare some tea
if you show me kitchen.
No, I'm supposed to do that.
You're the guest.
This way.
You hungry, Ly?
You mind if I call you Ly for short?
For dinner we have...
...steak, potatoes...
For dessert: strawberries.
We'll have you back to normal in no time.
The meat'll take more work,
but we've got that under control.
"Bless us, O Lord, for these gifts
which we are about to receive.
"In the name of the Father,
the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen."
Were the bugs bad?
- What about drugs?
- Some guys got involved...
...some guys didn't.
My Steve wouldn't do anything bad.
No way.
Johnny got killed.
Le Ly, you got such pretty hair.
Then we got another R and R in Australia.
You should see those beaches.
- Was the money as good as they say?
- $14,000...
...I socked away.
Combat pay, no tax, overseas pay,
the best. I'd go for another year, if I could.
I guess it's over, though.
Beverly's been calling.
I'm sure she wants it all, too.
Three more years.
Then I'm in fat city.
How are the kids?
Great. You must call them.
John's having trouble in school.
I'll do it, okay?
Can we just relax here?
I'm sure Lee Lay's really jet-lagged out.
Aren't you, honey?
You drank too much.
You forgot my name.
I'm sorry, Le Ly.
Steve was always slow in school.
Just think of it as a Saigon taxi.
Just a rental.
My personal car's in the shop.
You know I understand about money.
You in Marines a long time...
...but you live with your mother.
The problem is Beverly.
She gets half my paycheck.
Plus child support and she's still pissed.
I'm in debt to the credit union...
...for the loan they made me in '67.
I'm practically bankrupt.
I got three more years,
I'll get out with a good pension.
Then I have a good job waiting for me.
Big bucks.
Just you and me.
We're going to be back in the Far East.
I'll be making $65,000 a year, guaranteed.
Promised to me.
What's this job?
I can't tell you. Not yet. It's confidential.
But I guarantee it'll work out.
We need to go back to Aisle 3
where that cute guy is.
- He'd make a cute snack.
- Yeah, what buns on him!
Pick one.
Uncle Ben, I think.
Uncle trusted man.
We're not feeding the village.
Bernice doesn't even like this stuff.
This is America, baby.
Store stays open 24 hours.
You don't need money in America.
You just give this piece of paper
to the bank and the bank pays.
They don't get it.
I do.
We'll lick them together.
We'll lick them together.
Thank you, Lord,
for watching over us all this year...
...and for these things
for which we are grateful.
I met her on a Danang street corner.
Her girlfriend tried to rip me off.
I had one like that in Okinawa.
She had thighs as plump as that turkey,
cracked coconuts with them.
Wait, it's not what you think.
I chased her like a starving ARVN
hunting for a grain of rice.
Don't run off with your dirty mind.
Don't get a headache.
You and me are peas in a pod.
Oriental women...
...will tell you anything you want to hear.
But if you believe it,
I'll be the first to salute you.
What are you saying?
Oriental women are very loyal.
Have a drink. All I'm trying to say is,
more power to you, buddy.
Come on, Ly, it's Thanksgiving.
You can eat.
Think of the starving children in Vietnam.
Leave her alone.
She always eats like a sparrow.
Rice and fish, fish and rice...
...that's all the kids ever get.
They're starving for meat and potatoes.
Give her a break. She can't eat
for her whole damn country.
I want her to know we're being generous.
I want her to be grateful.
Grateful. Let me tell you about grateful.
We'd go to villages and the first thing
old men and women would say to us was:
"Please, sir, don't kill me."
In Danang, we'd drive past hospitals...
...past people our bombs had blown to bits.
And they'd wave.
Boys and girls with no arms, no legs...
...waving at us like tourist
going to the beach.
Because they're happy to be alive
and glad to see us.
We put them where they were.
And there's 20 of them dead or mutilated
for every one of us.
So don't expect Ly to do handstands
over your turkey.
She knows exactly what she's got
and what she's left behind.
- Well, excuse me, baby brother.
- Steve is right.
I'm sorry, Mrs. Butler.
It's time the kids slept in their own bed.
They more loving when they stay with us.
Who's going to protect them
from evil spirits?
Look, it ain't Vietnam in this bedroom.
It's California.
How can I even see you
across all these bodies?
Kids sleep alone.
Makes them more independent.
You Le Ly's hero.
Tonight, you protect Le Ly.
You good man.
Just too much whiskey.
I want to go work. I want make money.
I want get out of here.
I think your family like their dogs
better than our boys.
What will you do, anyway?
Work factory. Restaurant.
There's plenty Oriental restaurant
growing here.
I'd like to go back to Vietnam.
Make a bundle.
I'll tell you the truth,
I kind of miss it, in a way.
What's this job they want you to do
for so much money?
It's just between you and me, okay?
Government has rules about what jobs
you can do after what I've done.
What job?
It's arms.
Selling arms.
- I don't understand.
- You know, guns? I sell guns.
You joking?
What do you think I did the last 17 years?
What do you think military advisors do?
I go into countries the US helps
and teach them...
...how to use the weapons
our corporation sell.
How can you sell guns to governments
that blow up women and children?
You know that
if we didn't sell these weapons...
...the Communists would.
Guns! Communists!
Is that all Americans think about?
It's the only thing I know how to do.
At least I'll make more money doing it.
Do you ever listen to anything I tell you?
Oh, shit.
- You mean the Buddhist stuff?
- No, not just that!
I mean, my family, my life.
We don't know anything
about each other, Steve.
You lied to me in Vietnam.
No, it wasn't a lie...
It was a white lie. A good lie.
Baby, don't do this.
Please. I love you, darling.
Much against Steve's wishes,
I found a job...
... working in a circuit board factory.
I know the girls well...
... so I borrowed $5,000. I need $10,000...
... to open a little deli
in an immigrant neighborhood.
We Vietnamese never trust in bank.
Loan money to each other.
Can I borrow some money?
I think I'll make $1,400 profit a month.
I didn't tell Steve.
He'd be angry.
He didn't like my starting a business...
... of my own.
Those cost me $5,000 in Vietnam.
Take it back to Vietnam.
I'm opening a restaurant. I'll be back.
Steve want to give me money, control me.
But I used to working,
having my own money.
But in America,
he want me to be housewife.
So I wear two hats.
I'm lucky? What do you mean?
You told me two years!
We had an agreement! Not one!
Two years, not $10,000. $20,000!
I don't think so!
I put in air conditioner!
I clean electric wiring!
I remodel! I put up shelves!
I should pay $10,000 for two years
and you know it!
When I tell Steve, we have a big fight,
then more fights.
Hung, now Jimmy...
... break my heart when he refused
to speak Vietnamese with me...
... as did Tommy and our new son, Alan.
In school, because of the war,
they said they were Mexican.
I won't sign it.
Fine. No sign.
I was starting to behave like an American...
... yelling back at my husband,
frowns, scowls.
And all the time you spend at the temple!
Steve was drinking more...
... and seemed unhappy with his job
at the Marine base.
Buddha don't know shit!
There was another side to Steve now
I had not seen before.
He speak angry words now.
All blood and thunder words.
She's a bitch.
What do you want me to say?
She wants more! No reason.
Money goes like water around here.
I got five kids...
...including your bastard.
The Marine Corps owns my body
and my soul. I got nothing of my own!
Then why use $400 on two more guns?
Still bitching about money?
That's the gook in you.
You have no right to call me that!
These guns are valuable. I can sell them
for twice what I got in them.
One day they could be the only thing
between you and death.
Death? Death from who?
You the only person
who waves gun around here...
...who drinks and shoots.
I don't need you to tell me what to do!
They're my sons, too...
...and I'll take them up to the mountain,
teach them to hunt and shoot!
They'll learn to survive.
No way, buddy!
You will not teach my sons to shoot!
I see too many guns in my life.
Killing no way to protect anything!
I don't want guns in my house! No more.
You want them, you get out!
Fuck you...
...you lying little bitch!
Don't tell me to go. I read your letter.
What letter?
The one from your dink lover.
I saw it in your purse.
You went through my things?
What's he writing you
in Vietnamese about?
Does he want you back?
He asked about Jimmy.
I send him pictures...
...answer his questions.
- That's all.
- Bullshit!
Lying bitch!
One time, I think I love you.
But I see now we're too different inside
to be soul mates.
No more mistake now.
Not with children so young.
Are you saying you want a divorce?
Is that it?
One thing I learn.
In a marriage there's no such thing
as one person happy.
One miserable, both miserable.
That the way life works.
Oh, no, baby.
That is the way life works!
Oh, my God!
I felt my soul would go then, any moment.
God is not cruel...
... just practical.
In this life...
... sometimes, against all knowledge...
... we're paying back
for a lot of bad past lives.
I can't.
I can't live without you!
They got me so tied up.
Who's doing this to you?
The Marine Corps.
I'm not going to get the civilian job
I promised you.
I'm up for an Admin Board,
and they're going to kick me out.
You don't know the half of it.
You don't.
Tell me.
You must tell me all.
You'll feel better.
I'm a killer.
I killed so many over there.
I got so good at it...
...they assigned me to the projects.
Black Ops.
We killed sometimes three or four a night.
All kinds.
Rice farmers.
Rich fat cats bankrolling the VC.
It was a complete mind fuck.
Psy Ops, knives, rip a man's guts out...
...drop his liver on his chest
so he won't get to Buddha heaven.
Leave him lying on the road.
Cut his nuts off...
...stuff them in his mouth,
sew up his lips, leave him lying in bed.
Blame the VC. I didn't care.
Drugs, running guns, slavery.
You name it.
One time this guy killed a gook girl I was...
...shacking with.
We weren't supposed to fraternize
with any Viet nationalists...
...so they killed her.
Cut her throat from ear to ear.
I was in hell, baby.
I was in pure...
And maybe I went dinky dau over there.
Maybe I am nuts. Who the fuck knows?
The more I killed,
the more they gave me to kill.
You know what it's like?
It's like being eaten alive...
...by sharks. You must keep hitting,
you must keep moving...
...because if you stop...
...the sharks will eat you alive.
One day, they cut me off.
Then one day I found you.
And it all changed, I thought.
But, baby, nothing ever changes.
So fuck me, right?
It's okay.
What's going to happen to me?
I'm scared to death.
I don't know.
I, too, was a soldier in past lives.
I hurt many people.
I lied, I stealed...
...I hate.
Now I pay.
Soldiers try to kill my life.
Long time, I have no man love me.
No respect.
It's my fate.
We're the same, Steve.
We have made bad karma.
And our soul debt will come due,
if not in this life...
...then in another.
But we can't give up.
We must try.
Different skin...
...same suffering.
Can you love me?
Can you really love me?
Oh, my baby!
But the fights continued and continued.
Finally I went to see a lawyer.
In my heart,
I thought I did not belong in this country.
I thought of going home again.
He's not supposed to take furniture.
Call your lawyer.
It's okay, Sharon. Let him.
That's what a divorce is about.
That's when you divide everything.
- Not now.
- Please.
Let him go.
Eat up.
- What are you doing here?
- It's Sunday.
- Came to take the kids to Mass.
- I don't think so.
Get the hell out of the way!
Jimmy, come!
- What are you doing?
- I'm going, too.
No, you're not!
You're staying right here and fix lunch!
Le Ly, good to see you.
It's been far too long.
This is Steve.
How's Alan? Tommy?
- Fine. You want to see them again?
- Of course! I'm worried sick!
The police want you.
Fuck them. Do exactly what I tell you.
What do you want?
Write a letter to your bitch lawyer,
dropping the charges against me.
Tell her you want the house
and our stuff put in my name...
...and you're dropping the divorce.
You listening?
Yes, I'm listening.
Get the letter notarized.
Take it to Father Bob. I'll call him.
Do it or you'll be sorry.
Of course, you'll get the letter.
Just don't hurt them.
They're ours. They have our lives in them.
Just get that letter.
My boys. I birthed them with pain.
I chewed their food for them.
I am shocked.
I am insulted at the insolence of men.
They don't respect women.
I cannot believe such men
have known a mother's love.
If I show you a tiny baby
killed by a bayonet...
...and say it is his karma...
...we may cry for the baby...
...for his karma and the bad karma
of the soldier who killed it.
But we must never use our emotion...
...to deny the wheel of incarnation
that caused the act.
It is as natural...
...as the movement of the sun...
...and moon.
...how can I tell him we must be friends
and soul mates...
...without being husband and wife?
He has created much soul debt for himself.
But if you fail to give him the opportunity...
...to redeem himself...
...you will only increase you own soul debt.
The man-hate...
...that blinds you...
...will blind any man you find
in a future life.
If you turn Steve away...
...you will be rejecting
your own redemption.
...you have forgiven the man
who raped you...
...destroyed your country...
...harmed your family.
This is how it should be.
Your karma is mixed with Steve,
to Tommy and Alan.
The future...
...the past...
...are all the same.
If you divorce...
...you will only have to come back
and work it out again.
The path to Nirvana is never being safe...
...but tricky and steep.
And if you walk only on sunny days...
...you'll never reach your destination.
Choose well...
...my peach blossom.
A child without a father...
...is like a house without a roof.
Listen carefully.
My sister Kim had come to America
and married one of Steve's military friends.
Steve and the two boys are here now.
They're drinking.
He's getting ready to take them to Canada.
The boys are upset.
They don't want to stay with Steve.
Fine, next Tuesday.
- Whatever you want.
- Put Steve on. I must speak to him.
It's for you. Here.
Let go.
Please, I know you hate me.
But I don't hate you.
Let me help you.
Let me try.
I feel your pain.
You come back home. No police.
Just you, me and the children.
We make this right.
I'll go to your church.
I'll try harder. I'll put the shrine away.
I love you, Steve.
I love the man I saw in Vietnam.
I'll find you again.
He's still there, Steve.
I still love you.
Steve, please.
- You can't go in.
- My children.
- They're all right! Steve...
- What?
He killed himself.
The spirits are here.
Oh, this is marvelous.
Your husband is here.
He is a little shy.
He doesn't want to come into the house.
He's not used to this new world.
He's in much pain.
But he forgive you.
He ask for you...
...to take his soul into the Buddhist temple.
He say:
"Place me in the temple."
As he finds peace...
...so will your family
and your children find peace.
That's it.
Are you sure that was Steve?
He was such a strong Christian.
Trust me.
He change a lot.
And, by the way...
...this house.
Have to leave.
No good.
Your front door faces your back door.
Everything that come into your life
the front way, will go out the back.
Move fast!
It was 13 years after the war
that I first returned to Vietnam...
... to the spirit of my father...
... to my sisters and brother, Bon...
... who had survived the war...
... and to my mother,
who I had not spoken to in years.
An ocean had come between us.
I feared it would be the last time
for my sons to see her.
I had prospered in America. Yes.
I buy and rent houses,
became part in a restaurant...
... working all the time,
losing touch as a mother.
Affairs with different men,
none of whom touched my heart.
Stopping in old Saigon first...
... now Ho Chi Minh City...
... my heart trembled with anticipation
as I took Jimmy to see his father...
... who, as a teenage girl,
I'd fallen madly in love with...
... twenty years before.
Had he changed?
Don't start that again.
You look healthy.
You're a ghost.
I don't see you.
I don't know where you are.
How is your sister Kim?
Your grandsons. My boys.
Jimmy is Hung.
Tommy is Chau.
Born in America.
What'd she say?
She says you're giant.
She can't believe your size.
You used to scratch your back...
...on the wooden post in our house.
- Look at her teeth!
- Stop that.
Take one.
Be polite.
I'm sorry. I can't.
Don't spoil a good time.
My oldest son and my youngest daughter
are back with me.
My two halves on either side.
We share the same mother, I agree.
I love her as a sister...
...but I cannot accept her gifts.
I had this terrible fear
you would despise me...
...because I married your enemy
and left while you were still fighting.
It's been so many years.
Much is forgiven.
But you don't understand
how much suffering Americans caused.
Things are very hard.
We use our own excrement...
...to grow vegetables!
All we had to hold on to was the future...
...because we knew that the future
would not arrive unless we won...
...so we kept dying, no matter what...
...just like ants beneath the elephant's feet.
It wasn't because we were brave.
Because we had no choice.
Our freedom was all...
...all that mattered.
When the future finally came...
...there was more war.
The Cambodians, the Chinese.
When I came to look for Mama in 1980...
You have no idea
how much your mother suffered.
She was too old to work the paddies.
She had to give the land,
our land, to the State after liberation.
When I found Mama and Hai...
...they were starving.
Their clothes were rags,
their farm tools stolen...
...the animals slaughtered.
The house was in ruins.
Wild dogs attacked them.
Nobody in the village cared for them.
Just two old ladies scavenging...
...and growing vegetables to stay alive.
Now you come here...
...a rich, strange foreigner.
You'll turn the village against them.
And against us...
...the Phungs, who have suffered so much.
Things were bad for everyone
after liberation.
Many times,
heaven and earth changed places.
If you ask me,
rebuilding a nation after a war...
...is like trying to start a family
by getting raped!
If war produces one thing,
it's many cemeteries.
And in cemeteries there are no enemies.
All I could think of for so long...
...was how I made your brother, Sau,
go to war.
Your father wanted your brother to know
some of the joys of married life...
...but I said no,
so sure I was doing the right thing.
Can you believe it?
I gave up a grandson to gain a soldier.
And I lost both.
How wrong I was.
It was also An Sau's choice.
He was just being a good son
when he obeyed me.
If I could, I'd have stopped you
from going to America.
What would've happened
to your sons here?
I'm so proud of you, Bay Ly.
You've grown up to see the side of things
that's hidden from most people.
Tears are God's way of paying you back...
...for what He's taken.
I have no more tears.
I have cried them out
to all directions of the wind.
My color's changing, Ly.
It began last year.
I have seen it before in others.
You have come back,
and that's what matters.
You have completed your circle of growth.
Low tide to high tide...
...poor to rich...
...sad to happy...
...beggar to a fine lady.
Your past is now complete...
...and my destiny
as your mother is now over.
I'm looking forward to joining your papa.
That night,
I slept in the house my father built.
Afterward, he found no need
to visit me in my dreams.
I gave my offerings to all the dead
of the village.
I had come home, yes.
But home had changed...
... and I would always be in between...
... south, north...
... east, west...
... peace, war...
... Vietnam, America.
It is my fate to be
in between heaven and earth.
When we resist our fate, we suffer.
When we accept it, we are happy.
We have time in abundance, an eternity...
... to repeat our mistakes.
But we need only once
correct our mistake...
... and at last hear the song
of enlightenment...
... with which we can break the chain
of vengeance forever.
In your heart you can hear it now.
It's the song your spirit has been singing
since your birth.
If the monks were right
and nothing happens without cause...
... then the gift of suffering
is to bring us closer to God...
... to teach us to be strong
when we are weak...
... to be brave when we are afraid...
... to be wise in the midst of confusion...
... and to let go of that
which we can no longer hold.
Lasting victories are won in the heart...
... not on this land or that.